Traced by ferry routes off far-northwestern shores, the Alaska Marine Highway follows a fascinating coastal route on the Pacific Ocean. As you might guess, this aquatic byway has world-class fishing—and it's waiting just for you! Cast out for halibut, salmon, cod, pike, or any of the 21 sport-fishing species in the frigid waters of the “Last Frontier,” and reel in the adventure of a lifetime.
About 109 miles north of where the byway begins near Prince Rupert, Canada, encounter Ketchikan. Catch your fill of salmon fishing in the salt water near this Alaskan city, and you’ll discover why it’s known as the “salmon capital of the world.” Five different species of this tasty fish migrate to this region during the summer months—five reasons you should pack your pole and pursue the Marine Highway.
Take the ferry route for about 100 miles north along the calm waters of Alaska's Inside Passage to reach Wrangell. Here you can enjoy fishing without unpredictable, open-ocean swells. In addition, this community rich in history, native culture, and abundant wildlife is home to the King Salmon Fishing Derby every year from mid-May to mid-June. With a $6,500 prize, you'll have some extra motivation to fish your very best. Come later in the season, July through September, for waters flowing with Halibut, Chum, Coho, and Pink Salmon.
Continue north of Wrangell by ferry along the byway, and take in the massive glacial flows and rugged mountain peaks of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Although no ferries stop at the park itself, they do stop at the nearby commercial and sport-fishing town of Yakutat. Hire a charter boat to entice fish swimming in ocean waters, or hire an experienced guide to help you find the best, little-known fly-fishing spots on area rivers.
You’ve already encountered the salmon capital of the world at Ketchikan, so why not try your hand at halibut? Hop off the ferry at Homer, on the northwestern side of the Gulf of Alaska from Yakutat, to check out this halibut capital of the world. Gather with the rest of the commercial and sport-fishing crowd at the Homer “Spit,” a four-mile tentacle of land stretching out into the Kachemak Bay. Believed by some to be the debris left from an ancient retreating glacier, the “Spit” offers a number of delectable dining options, a saloon or two, and, of course, places to fish. Visit the “Spit” from mid-May to mid-September to fish at the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon, which offers its accessible waters to fishermen and women of all skill levels.
Mix up your fishing routine and head to the sandy beaches just north of Homer to catch yourself some clams! Try to snag a swiftly descending clam before it buries itself in sand. Read up on the rules and regulations before you take any home, though, as there are size restrictions and license criteria regarding these sharp-shelled mollusks.
Let Kodiak Island lure you in, one-hundred six miles south of Homer on the Marine Highway. Kodiak City and Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge abound with wonders of the Alaskan fishing world. Seek out remote locations among the refuge’s 11 lakes and 117 salmon streams by flying in on a floatplane or hiring a charter boat to take you to uncharted waters. Prove your fine fishing skills at Kodiak Island and attempt the salmon “Grand Slam,” which requires catching one member of all five species of the pink-fleshed fish in a single day. At the end of the day, stay in a lodge, cabin, or other accommodations right in Kodiak, one of the largest fishing ports in the nation, or brave the wilderness and combine fishing with a camping adventure.
Follow the Alaska Marine Highway to its westernmost reaches, and stop at Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. Located on a peninsula running far out in the Pacific Ocean, this region is prime fishing territory. Call ahead to set up a charter boat to take you to incredible offshore fishing spots. Put your trust in local captains, who will take you out on the open waters and provide you with the necessary tackle and bait to top off your byway fishing catch.
Alaskan fishing is an epic adventure through one of the world’s most pristine environments, so to ensure a good time, familiarize yourself with the Alaskan fishing rules and regulations, obtain necessary permits, and educate yourself on proper equipment before casting your line. Information about state- and region-wide regulations can be found at the Alaska Division of Fish and Game website.
All along Alaska’s western coastline, the Marine Highway takes you through some of the world’s most beautiful frozen coastal landscapes to unequaled fishing destinations. Follow this byway and reel in everything from halibut to salmon. This Alaskan venture will surely stock your freezer with delicious meals and will fill your mind with unforgettable memories—and that’s no fish story.
- Public domain. T. Watson
- Copyright © 2013 State of Alaska.
- Public domain. Photo by Alaska Clearwater Sportfishing
- Copyright © 2010 Alaska Travel Industry Association.